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Security delays work of U.N. inspectors in Syria

Aug. 27, 2013 at 1:04 PM   |   Comments

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UNITED NATIONS, Aug. 27 (UPI) -- U.N. weapons inspectors in Syria shelved their work in Damascus for a day because of lingering concerns for their safety, the secretary-general said Tuesday.

U.N. weapons inspectors in Syria were fired on by gunmen Monday as they tried to visit a Damascus suburb, the scene of last week's alleged chemical weapons attack.

Hundreds of civilians were killed allegedly by a chemical agent. Western allies accused the Syrian government of launching the attack, though supporters of President Bashar Assad say it was a rebel attempt to court international favor.

U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said the team focused its attention elsewhere Tuesday because of ongoing safety concerns.

"A comprehensive assessment determined that the visit should be postponed by one day in order to improve preparedness and safety for the team," he said in a statement from his spokesman's office.

Ban said Monday the inspection team was able to visit the site of the alleged attack eventually. He said they were able to tour two hospitals, collect some samples and interview survivors.

British Prime Minister David Cameron said he spoke Tuesday with his Australian counterpart, Kevin Rudd, about the situation in Syria.

"The world cannot stand idly by in light of such a significant chemical weapons attack," he said in a statement.

U.S. State Department spokesman John Kerry said Monday he was appalled by the claims of a chemical weapons attack.

Ban said Tuesday the inspectors were in Syria to ascertain the facts but needed safe passage to carry out their mission.

"It is in the interest of all sides to bring factual evidence and clarity to a situation which has brought great suffering to the people of Syria," he said.

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